kLite Micro USB Charger Review: Dynamo Charging Simplified
The new kLite Micro USB Charger is one of the most efficient and compact dynamo chargers available, designed to run in line with a dynamo input on one end and a USB-A output on the other. We tested one before today’s launch to see how it stands up against its larger sibling and why it might be the key to the perfect beginner dynamo setup. Find our kLite Micro USB Charger review here…
As explained in our Real-World Guide to Dynamo Hubs, dynamo hubs work by generating AC power as the front wheel turns, which is converted into DC power that feeds into a compatible light or charger. While some folks will choose to run their dynamo straight to a handlebar or taillight, integrating a dynamo charger provides a standard USB charging port to keep a power bank or other low-draw electronics alive.
Australia-based kLite is considered a leader in dynamo lights and chargers, and their components are especially well-suited for low-speed riding and bikepacking. Owner and mastermind Kerry Staite has more than 25 years of bike-wrenching experience and has always had a knack for tinkering. He’s constantly seeking ways to improve his dynamo lights, especially to meet the demand of bikepackers and improve the efficiency of his system. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Kerry on the phone several times. He’s who I consider to be the mad scientist of dynamo lights—and I say that with admiration. Apparently, one of his first prototypes used salt and pepper shakers from his local supermarket for the lenses.
In 2018, kLite announced the Bikepacker Ultra dynamo light, which built on the kLite Bikepacker that was launched two years earlier. Unlike the original version, which used three tightly spaced lenses, the Bikepacker Ultra V1 was based around three horizontal lenses in road and off-road configurations. At the same time, kLite announced their first USB Charger, which weighed in at just 50 grams and provided a reliable 1-amp USB-A output for on-the-go charging. In 2020, the kLite Bikepacker Ultra V2 was announced, using 1,300-lumen Cree LEDs, a 180° wide beam angle, and a water/vibration-proof internally potted construction. They launched their dual-port USB charger alongside the Ultra V2, with two USB-A outputs and a 1,000mAh total output to keep a rear light and other electronics powered.
I’ve used the Ultra V2 light and Dual USB charger for several years now, including a six-week bikepacking trip in Australia. Having two USB ports at the ready is great for keeping my Garmin GPS and battery bank topped up. While I wouldn’t describe the V2 USB Charger as bulky or heavy, kLite saw an opportunity to offer a more compact version.
The kLite Micro USB Charger
The kLite Micro USB Charger is a smaller version of their original Dual USB Charger. It’s a tiny little device, measuring in at about 2” long by 0.5” wide, and it weighs about 20 grams—50 grams less than the Dual USB charger. Like all dynamo USB chargers, it is designed to sit in line between the dynamo hub and a power bank, dynamo light, or even a battery-powered light. It’s about a third of the size of the Dual USB Charger and has one USB-A output instead of two. It uses the same XT30 input found on all of kLite’s wire looms, and the entire system is waterproof by design. It is offered as a rectangular or round version that can be mounted to a handlebar and doubles as a GPS or light mount. It’s worth noting that this is not a replacement for its larger sibling but rather a more affordable option for the dynamo-curious.
The real purpose of the new Micro USB Charger is to offer a simplified dynamo setup. Paired with kLite’s non-switched direct lead, the USB Charger can be run directly from the dynamo hub, providing power for either a power bank or directly to a handlebar-mounted light with an inbuilt battery. However, as we know from our introduction to dynamos, it’s better to go through a battery bank as the output power from dynamo hubs isn’t the smoothest. According to Kerry at kLite, the impetus for the simpler system was because dynamo hubs are getting more affordable and readily available, and this provides a simple option to charge any USB handlebar light or power bank without having to also purchase their light. It’s also incredibly small, so it can be stashed inside a frame tube, bag, or simply zip-tied to the outside of the frame. Finding an appropriate place for the charger to live is as simple as it gets.
kLite offers direct leads for SON and SP/Shimano dynamo hubs. Both are available with a switch for those running a kLite Ultra light or without a switch to go directly to the Micro USB Charger. At one end is a 5v USB-A output, and at the other is an XT30 input. The USB end has a 1,500mA/5v output and maxes out at 100km/hour but kicks in at around 10 km/hour, depending on your hub type and wheel size. A red LED light indicates charging is active, so you’ll never need to guess whether it’s working. The LED is set inside the body of the charger, and the entire device emits a pleasant glow to make it easier to see.
The Micro USB Charger can also be paired with kLite’s bar switch wire loom, Ultra light, and rear light for a complete system, but that’s not the ultimate goal with the smaller charger. Ty Domin, a long-time kLite user and the new Canadian dealer, visited me on the Sunshine Coast a few weeks ago and had his Micro USB Charger set up like this. He simply stashed the charger inside his frame bag and ran the kLite Qube Dynamo Tail Light from the single USB port while his kLite Ultra light was powered directly from the dynamo hub. Although all the various wire looms and components might seem overwhelming, it’s promising to see a smaller and more affordable option that offers a simpler experience.
Thoughts While Riding
Since I like maintaining an uncluttered handlebar, installing and using the Micro USB Charger and the Minimalist (no switch) Wire Loom was very straightforward. To do this, you’ll need to purchase the correct kLite wire loom for your dynamo hub alongside the charger and figure out where you’re going to stash the charger. Then it’s just a matter of plugging the wire loom into the dynamo hub and connecting the yellow XT30 input into the charger. You’ll know the charger is working by giving the front wheel a quick spin and watching for the red LED.
As mentioned earlier, the output power straight from the charger isn’t the smoothest. In most cases, it’s best to charge a dynamo-optimized power bank instead of going directly into a device. Certain power banks handle low current charging better than others and allow for pass-through charging (accepting a charge while also providing output power), which is great for charging sensitive electronics such as smartphones. With that said, you can sometimes get good results by charging certain electronics—including rechargeable handlebar lights and some GPS devices—directly from the USB Charger.
Many variables determine whether or not the Micro USB Charger can keep up with your handlebar light without using an inline battery bank. The most obvious is the light’s lumen output and whether or not the charger is producing enough power to keep it topped up. After experimenting, I found high (~1,500+) lumen settings were difficult to charge using the Micro USB. Even when rolling at 40 km/hour on smooth terrain, the light’s battery would slowly deplete. However, in a low (~700) lumen setting, the power draw was low enough for the charger to keep up and charge the light while riding around 20 km/hour. I found that anything slower than 10 km/hour wasn’t enough to keep a light charging, even with the USB Charger still producing power. Using an inline power bank is your best bet while riding at slow speeds, including most singletrack.
- Significantly smaller than the original Dual USB Charger
- Competitively priced at $50 less than the Dual USB Charger
- Easy to stash inside a top tube bag, fit in a frame bag, or zip-tie onto your frame
- Perfect introduction to dynamo charging
- USB-A connection isn’t the tightest and can sometimes work its way loose. EDIT: production versions have been modified for a tight fit
- Requires a power bank with pass-through charging capabilities for high-power devices, smartphones, etc.
- Size: 2″ x 0.5″ (5cm x 1.3cm)
- Material: Hardened Plastic Exterior, Potted Internals
- Weight: 19 grams
- Place of Manufacture: Australia
- Price: $155 AUD (charger only)/$170 AUD (with direct wire loom)
- Manufacturer’s Details: kLite.com.au
Diving into the world of dynamos, chargers, and handlebar lights can be intimidating and expensive. Thankfully, the new kLite Micro USB Charger is a step in the right direction. Besides its minimal size and weight, the Micro USB Charger is a good introduction to dynamo-powered riding. It’s a great option for riders who aren’t quite ready to purchase a light or are more interested in keeping a power bank or the rechargeable handlebar light they already own juiced up.
Paired with a growing number of ready-made dynamo wheelsets from brands like Hunt, Nobl, Velocity, and others, it’s easier than ever to purchase everything you need and install the entire system yourself. The headache-free Micro USB Charger is a fantastic way to learn the quirks of a dynamo setup and eventually integrate one of kLite’s powerful lights into your kit. The kLite Micro USB Charger is available as of today directly from kLite for those in Australia or through one of their dealers for folks elsewhere in the world.
Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.